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EU Legal Documents

In the European Union, three institutions are involved in the lawmaking process--the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Council of the European Union, while the Court of Justice of the European Union adjudicates disputes regarding EU law and considers questions regarding its interpretation.  The European Commission also serves as an executive body, and the European Council established the Union's policy priorities.

Types of EU Documents

The entities above generate a number of key primary source documents of which researchers should have a general understanding:


Primary Legislation Secondary Legislation Case Law
In EU parlance, treaties are referred to as "primary" legislation.
  • "Secondary" legislation:  "Secondary" legislation is produced during the legislative process in which the Parliament, Council of the EU, and Commission all play a role.  The three types of "secondary" legislation include:
    • Regulations--Apply directly to member states.
    • Directives--Require implementing measures by member states.
    • Decisions--Apply only to the parties at issue.
In the Court of Justice of the European Union, judges may seek advisory opinions from their Advocates General.  These opinions provide the Advocate Genera's recommended disposition on a matter or issue and while advisory in nature, typically influence the Court.  The Court's subsequent judgment is distinct from these opinions.


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